Earth to Ralph Lauren: American Indian Iconography is a Hotbed for Scandal


The Redskins are of course the most prominent offenders in the ongoing PC battle over American Indian slang, as recent months have seen the NFL team under increasing pressure to drop its name and logo. It’s a debate that culminated with the US Patent and Trademark Office’s recent decision to cancel the team’s trademark.

But tailing the football team is a wagon train of scandals involving celebrities and brands criticized for recently using Native American headdresses as fashion accessories. These cases make Ralph Lauren’s ongoing obsession with using Native American headdress iconography all the more confusing. Is the brand just begging to be added to the criticism?

Those who have found themselves apologizing for the misuse of Native headdresses include music icons Pharrel and Gwen Stefani. Chanel “deeply apologized” after its headdress scandal and Victoria’s Secret “sincerely apologized” after a similar event. Even lesser-knowns have come under fire, such as the daughter of Oklahoma’s governor.[more]

One would think that after all of the media attention, it would be common sense to avoid a fashion statement that clearly is an insult to a large group of people. But apparently Ralph Lauren doesn’t read the news, because the brand has a whole new collection so heavily reliant on American Indian iconography that it almost seems fetishistic. 

Ralph Lauren did not respond to brandchannel’s inquiry about the questionable designs.  

Many of the headdress designs are under Ralph Lauren’s main label, while others are availale under the “Denim & Supply” private label available in Macy’s stores. Native American iconography isn’t just a recent design obsession of Ralph Lauren’s. A look at older RL Denim & Supply designs (available on eBay) reveal even more. 

But then, Ralph Lauren isn’t solely focused on headdresses. The new collection throws in a totem pole shirt for good measure. 


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